- Govert Flinck
- 'Tronie' of an old man, possibly a Jewish scholar
- indistinctly signed and dated upper right: ...t 1642
- oil on panel
- 24 3/8 by 18 5/8 in.; 61.9 by 47.3 cm.
Possibly his (deceased) sale, Paris, Joullain, 11 June 1772, lot 13 ("Le portrait en buste d'un vieillard, vu de trois quarts, il a une barbe courte, un petit bonnet sur la tête, & est decoré d'une chaîne d'où pend une médaille; ce Portrait est peint sur bois... en 1631, de son meilleur temps...," 22 pouces 6 par 18) where sold for 600 francs;
Gemäldegalerie, Früher Oldenburg, by 1897, no. 195 (one of the early possessions of the gallery, according to Bode, see under Literature);
Victor Hahn Collection, Berlin;
His sale, Berlin, Herman Ball and Paul Graupe, 27 June 1932, lot 16;
Anonymous sale, London, Christie's, 19 July 1973, lot 162;
Anonymous sale, London, Sotheby's, 27 April 2006, lot 42;
There purchased by the present collector.
W. Bode and C. Hofstede de Groot, The complete work of Rembrandt, Paris 1897, vol. II, p. 160, cat. no. 140, reproduced ("Painted about 1632"."The signature, Rembrandt 1648, is a forgery"; as Rembrandt, but as formerly ascribed to J. Lievens);
A. Rosenberg and W.R. Valentiner, Rembrandt (Klassiker der Kunst), Stuttgart/Berlin 1908, p. 119, reproduced (as Rembrandt);
C. Hofstede de Groot, A catalogue raisonné..., London 1916, p. 222-223, cat. no. 416 (as Rembrandt);
W. Bode, “Die Rembrandts der Oldenburger Galerie”, in Berliner Tageblatt, 21 July 1923;
Donath, Jahrbuch für Kunstsammler, Frankfurt 1924, vol. IV/V, p. 99 reproduced fig. 36, (as by Rembrandt);
A. Donath, "Alte Meister aus Berliner Privatbesitz: Die Ausstellung in der Akademie", in Der Kunstwanderer, 7 (1925), 1/2. Augustheft, pp. 422-424;
A. Donath, Sammlung Victor Hahn. Band II. Gemälde, Bildwerke in Holz, Bronze und Elfenbein, Kunstgewerbe, Berlin 1926, cat. no. 86, (as by Rembrandt);
A. Donath, “Sammlung Victor Hahn”, in Der Kunstwanderer: Zeitschrift für alte und neue Kunst, für Kunstmarkt und Sammelwesen, vols.13-14,1931-32, May 1932, p. 248, (as by Rembrandt)
A. Bredius, Rembrandt Gemälde, Vienna 1935, cat. no. 151, reproduced (as doubtful Rembrandt: 'nicht durchaus gesichert');
J. Rosenberg, Rembrandt: life and work, London 1964, p. 371 (as not by Rembrandt, having seen the original);
K. Bauch, Rembrandt Gemälde, London 1966, p. 47 (as Manner of Solmon Koninck);
A. Bredius (revised by H. Gerson), Rembrandt, London 1969, p. 536, reproduced (as not by Rembrandt);
W. Sumowski, Gemälde der Rembrandt-Schüler, vol. II, Landau/Pfalz 1983, p. 1035, under cat. no. 678 (as Flinck);
G. Graupe, Kratz-Kessemeier, Le Masne de Chermont, Savoy, Paul Graupe (1881–1953): Ein Berliner Kunsthändler zwischen Republik, Nationalsozialismus und Exil, Köln 2016, pp.55-56, reproduced fig. 60, (as by Rembrandt).
This is a tronie, or fancy-dress study, based on a real likeness. Rembrandt developed the tronie and painted many of them from his Leiden period onward, though they fell out of fashion after the 1640s. Students and studio assistants as well as friends and family no doubt provided his models, but many tronies, both by Rembrandt and his pupils, are of identified persons, of whom the most famous is Rembrandt's first wife Saskia Uylenburgh. Many of Rembrandt's self-portraits also take the form of tronies, and these, in which fancy caps and lavish costumes feature strongly, are how we tend to visualize him, at least in the 1630s. Flinck, along with many of Rembrandt's pupils from the first decade of his Amsterdam period, continued to produce tronies in large numbers, presumably to meet the great demand for them. Simon Schama no doubt had the Rembrandtesque tronie at the forefront of his mind when he recently remarked to camera "Dutch art has a very large hat department."1
This tronie, of an elderly gentleman in a red buttoned shirt with fur shawl, pendant necklace, red skull-cap, and thick white beard, is a pensive yet confident example of the type. The sitter's beard is brilliantly executed with contrasting brush strokes that utilize the scoring technique made popular by Rembrandt and his immediate followers. By using the hard back end of the brush, Flinck adds depth and a true tactile quality to the paint surface. In this regard, and in overall type, the painting may be compared with Flinck’s Head of an Old Man in the National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin, from circa 1642 (fig. 1, inv. NGI.254). Both this panel and the Ireland tronie employ a similar lighting scheme, pensive psychological intensity, and dynamic technical approach.
We are grateful to Tom van der Molen for endorsing the attribution to Flinck, based on photographs, and for his assistance in the cataloguing of this lot. Furthermore, when last sold in 2006, Professor Werner Sumowski endorsed the attribution to Flinck and suggested a date of execution in the early 1640s.
1. In The Face of Britain, broadcast BBC2, 28th October 2015.